Icasa has met twice with SpaceX officials over the possible launch the Starlink internet service in South Africa.
Communications regulator Icasa has met twice with SpaceX officials over the possible launch the Starlink internet service in South Africa but has not received a formal licence application from the company.
Icasa confirmed to TechCentral on Friday that SpaceX sought guidance from the regulator on the requirements and processes involved in providing the Starlink service to South Africans.
It said it has no record that Starlink applied for any of the licences it is likely to need, including radio frequency spectrum, individual electronic communications network service (I- ECNS) and individual electronic communications service (I-ECS) licences, or made any such transfer applications.Icasa said it welcomes new applications for the provision of broadband satellite services in South Africa
Icasa said it welcomes new applications for the provision of broadband satellite services in South Africa since it’s an important and growing market, especially for the provision of broadband internet services to remote and underserviced areas.
However, there are certain regulatory requirements that prospective entrants need to meet before Icasa can approve and issue the necessary licences.
Interested service providers need to follow the prescribed application process for the necessary spectrum, network and service licences in accordance with the rules governing such applications, it said. Also, any equipment used to provide such a service needs to be “type approved”.
The Electronic Communication Act requires individual ECS and ECNS licence applicants or licensees to have a minimum 30% equity ownership held by persons from historically disadvantaged groups, which includes black people, women, youth and people with disabilities. This may be the requirement that SpaceX – and Musk – baulked at. SpaceX did not answer an e-mail from TechCentral seeking further clarity.
Earlier this week, Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard blasted the ANC government for “blocking” the launch of Starlink in South Africa.
Kohler Barnard said in a statement on Wednesday that the ANC’s rigid stance on black economic empowerment – and specifically Icasa’s rules – have effectively blocked SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, from launching Starlink here.
“It is simply laughable that an international, multibillion-dollar company must hand over at least 30% of its equity to the ANC government to operate within South Africa,” she said, implying incorrectly that the shares have to be sold to the government.
The DA MP, who serves as shadow minister of communications, said South Africa “looks set to become one of the only African countries not to roll out Starlink” because of the black economic empowerment rules and vowed to write to minister Mondli Gungubele to have the regulations amended “to remove the archaic, irrational and ridiculous hurdles to progress”.
According to a map on the Starlink website, the only major countries in Africa that offer the satellite internet service are Nigeria and Rwanda. However, many other African countries, including some in Southern Africa, are expected to launch the service as soon as this quarter.
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